Whosoever Diggeth a Pit Shall Fall in It

by Belle Waring on April 15, 2015

People often complain that they can never listen to Bob Marley because the over-popularity of the compilation “Legend,” and its subsequent over-play in every randos college dorm room, every frat party, and every back-packer hostel, everywhere in the world. It is incongruous to sit on a big bamboo platform in Cambodia and listen to “Buffalo Soldier.” I’m sure this is no longer true and today’s college kids can have a happy experience in which they just find the song “No Woman, No Cry” all on their own. I hope. I am somewhat permanently inoculated because I listened to those songs when I was a kid. And for god’s sake, “No Woman, No Cry” is a beautiful song. But anyway, if all this bothers you for some reason, you don’t have to say “lively up your own self, Bob Marley. I’m listening to Desmond Dekker!” Just listen to different, other Bob Marley songs. I actually had this first one cued up for a post about how to not comment like a sexist dillweed, but I’m sure I’ll find something else. Small Axe, baby, coming to cut you down!

Mr. Brown!

Mr. Brown is some kind of ghost/duppy/magic user creepo getting chauffered around in a three-wheeled coffin, with crows that can talk. The sampling style is all spooky to reflect that it’s a ghost story.

High Tide or Low Tide is my favorite Bob Marley song. At my dad’s the difference between high tide and low tide is almost eight feet. So the high twice a day and low twice a day is vividly present as part of the day. Day by day it cycles one hour later, with cool high tide covering all but the tips of the marsh grass at 3pm sometimes, and then, not so many days later, the smell of vegetable rot and death-still calm of low tide at the hottest of the day. The leaves of the palmetto hang down against one another, creaking leatherly but not moving, and a great wide greasy stain of unmoving water shows at the center of the river and centipede-like sending legs up every marsh. When I was young my god-father’s black labs were named high tide and low tide. This is also the song my brother put on a mix for me when I was really bummed out, so it reminds me that he loves me.

Take that, frat-boys!



js. 04.15.15 at 3:42 am

This is good! I’m definitely someone for whom Marley was destroyed by fucking frat boys, and it’s probably a good time for a relisten. But: for music coming out of Kingston around then, it is not possible to do better than the Maytals. It cannot be, right?


Peter T 04.15.15 at 3:50 am

When the internet blows up in some ugly way, I think of my favourite Rastafarian graffito, Brixton 1980: “ALL YOU COLD-HEARTED WHORES WILL MEET WITH AN UNFEELINGNESS BEYOND YOUR WILDEST DREAMS”. Did Bob Marley sing it somewhere?


Belle Waring 04.15.15 at 4:40 am

Toots and the Maytals…pretty much unstoppable and untoppable, yeah, BUT open your mind to Bob Marley and the Wailers, and let them “steady skank” into your heart!


Belle Waring 04.15.15 at 5:55 am

I’m in a cab so can’t play the video but I noticed from the screen cap that the lyrics are wrong. It’s “the goodness of Jah-Jah/endureth forever,” and “these are the words/of my master/telling me that/no wicked shall prosper.” I’ll correct more later. Also, these photos remind me of a sort of prank my dad played on an overly imposing guest. This dude kept saying, “hey B, let’s roll up another big one” and “why don’t we roll up another big one.” He had a distinctive high, nasal voice . And that’s all well and good but did this guy bring any weed to our house, even?! No. Finally my dad got pissed off, took a fuckton of lower leaves off the curing plants, and rolled a massive spliff using an A3 sheet of blank newsprint paper, with a carefully crumpled toilet paper roll as a filter. The next time homes asked why we didn’t roll up another big one, my dad whipper out this 18-inch-long monster, asking, “is that big enough for you?” The adults then proceeded to actually smoke it, much to my amusement (yes it burned fast and uneven.)


js. 04.15.15 at 6:31 am

“Mr. Brown” is amazing! Hadn’t heard the song before but, oddly, if you take away the reggae beat, it’s a lot like some psych-y garage stuff I love and listen to all the time. (Will try to think up a comparison tomorrow.) I liked the other ones too, but that one really stuck out.


Belle Waring 04.15.15 at 7:01 am

I know, right? There’s also plenty of classic Wailers straight-up ska, like “Simmer Down,” and the sad “One Cup of Coffee.”


JPL 04.15.15 at 9:54 am

Not only had I never heard of the “Legends” compilation, I am innocent of Marley music’s omnipresence at frat parties and backpack hostels. We enjoyed these songs when they came out in “real time”. When I listen to Bob Marley’s songs I remember walking down the street and hearing the music wafting from pubs and people’s houses, not to mention the parties, so it does seem like a “sound track” to lived experience, I guess you could say.

(He does seem to say “I-dureth for I-ver”; it could be related to the Rastafari expression “I and I”, expressing the oneness of body and spirit, of you and I, and Jah and all of us.)

Here’s one of the “other” songs that I always liked, “Bend down low”.


Mdc 04.15.15 at 11:35 am

‘Bend down low’ is great. This one is a real gem, too:



Kenny Easwaran 04.15.15 at 12:58 pm

I don’t know what the situation is with Bob Marley here, but the other day I was walking around campus at Texas A&M and a bunch of the students were hanging out on hammocks or throwing a frisbee and listening to The Doors. I don’t know if it means that Texas A&M is just 20 years behind the times, or if a certain sort of college scene is timeless (and that probably includes Bob Marley). Although now that I think about it, there may have been some Quidditch mixed in too.


Teachable Mo' 04.15.15 at 1:03 pm

You talk about the smell of rot in SC marshes, but I’ve never been able to tell if the smell is the marsh or the paper mills. Other Lowcountry coasts** don’t stink like SC marshlands which really do take getting used to. The first time we drove down to Edisto, I remember thinking it was a really big mistake. Since it quickly became our 1st choice for beaches, we did get used to it.

**For instance Jekyll or Cumberland Islands.


dn 04.15.15 at 1:27 pm

JPL – I’ve heard that Rastas have a word for their slang/dialect/whatever-you-call-it – “Iyaric”, so called in reference to the Amharic language of Selassie I (Selassie-“I” to a Rasta).


Sus. 04.15.15 at 1:40 pm

I came upon Bob Marley early and can’t imagine not enjoying his music … and Toots puts on a terrific live show. But I’m far from a purist – I love it when my favorite bluegrass bands decide to cover a Marley tune and put their own spin on it. As an example, this cover of Small Axe by Greensky Bluegrass is one of my favorites : https://youtu.be/5ml6VWDd4HQ

Cornmeal (covering Could You Be Loved) sticks a little closer to the original, but has some great blue-grassy jams: https://youtu.be/pS0ckJ2YaaU


parse 04.15.15 at 2:12 pm

I had big hopes for the Chant Down Babylon remix album pairing a post-mortem Bob Marley with various rap and R&B artists when it came out years ago but didn’t think any of the new versions really stirred anything up.

I am partial to Bunny Wailer’s re-make of Redemption Song without Marley: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XEPhmu6ezEQ “Redemption Song”. And then there’s all of Peter Tosh’s stuff too.


Belle Waring 04.15.15 at 2:40 pm

JPL: I could be wrong and it could be an “I and I” thing, similiar to the straight bible quote that makes up the core of my most beloved reggae song (and one of my favourites of any genre) Peter Tosh’s “I Am That I Am” (also on that same mix my brother made for me). In the days before the internet could tell you song lyrics I was mightily baffled by the lyrics to “Clash City Rockers” by The Clash. “You owe me a move say the bells of St. Groove” is fine. I was OK if mildly unsure of myself with “come on and show me say the bells of old Bowie.” “When I am fitter say the bells of Gary Glitter” was, again, unmistakeable, even though I had no idea who Gary Glitter was, but “no one but you and I say the bells of Prince Far I” totally mystified me for years. I don’t think I knew what it said till I was like 21, and we even had some Prince Far I songs on a…Cry Tuff? compilation. Yeah, checking, Cry Tuff Dub.

Paper factories like the one on the Savannah river right upstream of Savannah are prevalent in the area of the South Carolina Lowcountry, but they aren’t the reason the marsh smells like it does. The river where my family house is at is very pristine, supports a huge variety of wildlife from bald eagles to mink to dolphins to great blue herons, and when the tide is low it smells like…mmm…alive death? Dead teeming endlessly living things? In the best possible way. I love it, obviously. Right now I wish I could be in the hammock on the sleeping porch, looking out over the river, smelling wisteria and confederate roses and gardenias and brackish water, and marsh-grass rotting in machiolated banks of infinitely slippery grey-black mud clay at low tide.


oldster 04.15.15 at 3:12 pm

“a post about how to not comment like a sexist dillweed”

This particular slur comes from the overuse of dill (Anethum graveolens) as a seasoning in Swedish cooking. Dill with sauces, dill with fish, dill with meat, dill with desserts, dill with coffee, dill in everything.

It came to be so noxious and loathsome that people would upbraid a loathsome and noxious human by calling him a “dillweed.”

Soon this particular slur came to sound too harsh and sordid. By the process of taboo deformation, which changes “Jesus” to “jeepers” and “Christ” to cripes, “dillweed” was modified to the less offensive form “dickweed”. This form was more acceptable in polite company–who could object to a man’s name?==and it in turn was later shortened to “dick”, which people still employ in order to insult someone without having to use the full form, sc. “dillweed.”

Our host, never one to use a polite word where an impolite one will suffice, naturally uses the obscenity in its original, uncut form.


lemmycaution 04.15.15 at 3:52 pm

Can you imagine telling the convoluted story you told yourself of why Bob Marley isn’t very good to your children. They are innocent! The cycle of frat-reactive musical delusion must stop.

This chowderhead hard at work on a book about wine in America is concerned that white Americans like bob marley too much:


Bob Marley is great. Those frat guys like Bob Marley just the right amount.


The Modesto Kid 04.15.15 at 4:09 pm

Oh boy, thanks! Look forward to checking this out — I love “Legend” (likewise inoculated to its overplayedness by listening to it as a kid) but have not heard much of this.


engels 04.15.15 at 4:40 pm

WILLIAMSBURG, VA—In an unprecedented effort to fight injustice, reggae music legend Bob Marley, dead since 1981, rose from his grave in Jamaica early Sunday to free his most devoted followers, American college fraternity members, “from the bonds of oppression.”


Charles 04.15.15 at 6:58 pm

I’m confused as to why “High tide or low tide” shows the cover of Catch A Fire, which didn’t include that song.


The Modesto Kid 04.15.15 at 7:42 pm


godoggo 04.15.15 at 8:07 pm

One of my favorites is Rastaman Chant, which seems to be based partly on Fly Away, which somebody mentioned recently.

I tend to much prefer the stuff with Peter and Bunny, and lose interest after he went solo.


dn 04.15.15 at 8:58 pm

I shamefacedly admit to not being too familiar with Marley’s work beyond the hits on “Legend”. (Many thanks for “High Tide or Low Tide”; what a great song!) But I do have a vast love for Bunny Wailer’s “Blackheart Man” album.


Bruce 04.15.15 at 11:04 pm


Don’t think me strange, but I found this page after reading a post by a poet who mentioned your poem, “It was My first nursing job,” and in the next line said you had passed away earlier this year. so glad she is mistaken.


maidhc 04.15.15 at 11:13 pm

Fraternities used to be known for the horrible music they liked to listen to.

Now they like to listen to good music and people complain about it?

I sometimes grab a bite to eat at a bar near the local campus that’s popular with fraternity members, and it seems as though the jukebox is always playing stuff that I listened to in high school, like the Doors, Sly & the Family Stone, or Wilson Pickett.

Yeah, some of that stuff is overplayed, but it could be a lot worse.


Jeremy 04.16.15 at 12:51 am

I’ll recommend Bob Marley’s Trenchtown Days: Birth of a Legend compilation for those interested in checking out his early years. Definitely more my type of thing than Legend, which I seem to have lost while at college. As far as I can tell, it must have run off with my copy of Atlas Shrugged (which, good riddance), in one of the unlikeliest parings I know of.


Belle Waring 04.16.15 at 3:49 am

I’m not complaining about their choices exactly, it’s just that overplay of the compilation Legends has led some people to throw up their hands and not be able to listen to “Trenchtown Rock” anymore, and that’s sad and fucked up. It used to be years ago you could hardly go anywhere college students gathered and not hear that one CD.

Bruce: there are two Belle Warings, and that is the other Belle Waring who also was from DC (my mom lives in the DC area and I went to H.S. there). Random, I know.


Roger Gathmann 04.16.15 at 4:06 am

I don’t get the idea that if frathouses and superficial hipsters turn on to Bob Marley’s songs, this is some kind of disaster for the music. Myself I think that the songs may insinuate their message in some mind or other, and the more minds the better. This is to the good! Tribalism is the curse of fandom. I like it that a song asking us to free our minds from mental slavery is in the mix with, say, Toby Keith songs at your local delta sigma pi. As Marley’s distant past life avatar put it, ” A sower went out to sow his seed: and as he sowed, some fell by the way side; and it was trodden down, and the fowls of the air devoured it.Other seed fell on rocky soil, and as soon as it grew up, it withered away, because it had no moisture. Other seed fell among the thorns; and the thorns grew up with it and choked it out. And other fell on good ground, and sprang up, and bare fruit an hundredfold. And when he had said these things, he cried, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.”


Roger Gathmann 04.16.15 at 4:21 am

and, to be more fanlike, I’ve always thought the best Marley moments are when he suddenly switches to another level – like in the song Running Away, when his voice gets small and old, to imitate the voice of his conscience. I hear that voice every time I get in a self-pitying mood.


js. 04.16.15 at 4:22 am

It’s not that the music becomes worse by association with frat boys. It’s more that when annoying white dude frat boy is blasting “Redemption Song” at 2 a.m. (because, really, why?), and you can’t help but suspect that dude doesn’t even understand what the song is about—once this happens enough times, “Redemption Song” (unfortunately!) gets associated in your mind with singularly annoying people and situations. So you don’t want to listen to it so much anymore. At any rate, I think something like this happened for a lot of people my age (ish), esp. if they were musically aware.

(Superficial hipsters, on the other hand, are only annoying when they pretend to like music that is objectively bad and that they know is objectively bad. Five-seven years ago, this was Journey; now it’s probably Hootie and the Blowfish or some shit.)


magari 04.16.15 at 4:24 am

Not so much who listens to it matters, but how prevalent it is in your daily life. Saturation can really ruin one’s ability to appreciate a song–any song. Luckily, we have the Catch a Fire album, which escaped overplay, and is a masterpiece.


floopmeister 04.16.15 at 5:26 am

Travel in Thailand enough and you realise that the trite cliche ‘too much of a good thing’ really is applicable to Mr Marley.

Mind you, Hotel California is apparently the unofficial Filipino national anthem so it’s not just Marley. As one of the Lonely Planet guidebooks (if I remember correctly) states “You haven’t been to Bangkok until you’ve heard a Filipino cover band play Hotel California“.

My last iteration of said musical experience was about a year ago in a hotel bar in Port Dickson, Malaysia – right after (I swear it’s the truth) they played “No Woman No Cry”.

The middle aged Malaysian matrons, Chinese businessmen and Nepalese waiters really liked it, as far as I could tell.


floopmeister 04.16.15 at 5:29 am

Mind you, my 8 year old soon really liked it too – and they played ‘Country Road’ for him after he requested it(!) so it’s all good…


peter ramus 04.16.15 at 5:39 am

I was initially disappointed by the CD transfer of the Legends album. The vinyl had a tone I’d become reasonably familiar with that wasn’t (perhaps couldn’t quite be, given the tools available at the time) precisely replicated by the digital transfer when the album was first sent to CD. The CD just didn’t sound quite the same. I’m not arguing about the superiority of either format in capturing the full range of sounds sensible to humans, just that the pleasant sonic standard set on vinyl did not cross over successfully to CD when originally given the chance.

If you search for The Wailers Live at the Record Plant in Sausalito, hosted by Tom Donahue of radio station KSAN, you’ll run across the originals at the very height of their powers, backed by the equivalent of the most valuable players from every reggae recording studio in Jamaica of the time. “You Can’t Blame the Youth,” eh?


Meredith 04.16.15 at 5:46 am

When I was 16 I went to a UVa frat party (courtesy of my girlfriend with an older boyfriend there — we all came from NJ). A year later I was back, pegged as the girl to go with the guy who would later be expelled from the frat for smoking marijuana…. Long story short, my beloved girlfriend married UVa guy (I was maid of honor), they had three children and divorced, since then she’s been happy in Canada with her mathematician husband of many years now (she has her own accomplishments I won’t go into), and the first “he” I have little idea about (well, some idea, thanks to his brother, who allied with my friend v his own brother, which tells you something). Anyway, at my tender age then, I learned (among other things) some incredible music. (May I note: frat boys did not then routinely rape. Surely most do not now. But now more do, I strongly suspect…. I say this in full awareness that my mother was “date-raped” at NYU in the late 1930’s.)

I should add: this whole frat world was so entirely out of my ken. But so also was the music. Black men with their saks…. I woke up.

A few years later, Marley came within my ken. I wish that, when I now refer to him, as I can’t help but do when I’m teaching introductory Latin or Greek (it comes up easily when you’re explaining that you’re teaching a “standard language”), that anyone recognized the name. There’s a lot I accept as time passes, the “oh, this doesn’t mean anything to them” moments, but really, Marley? Sad to say.

I wonder that my parents let me go off to UVa’s weekends in 1966 or so…. Probably my mother’s complicated nostalgia for VA (a NYC girl she was, with a VA grandmother and a difficult mother of VA — convoluted, much more here) combined with my Minnesota/Montana father’s laissez-faire of a different stripe. All going on in NYC/NJ. The south mixed in. The Caribbean, too. Part of our US larger history, whether we choose to recognize it or note. Or embrace it.


PJW 04.16.15 at 5:59 am

I was unaware of the fraternity brothers/Marley connection until now but it resonates and makes sense for me personally because a couple of Sigma Chi members turned me on to him in Iowa City in 1981. I always thought the only reason they ever hung out with me was because I always had weed. Haven’t listened to Marley or smoked weed since those days.


js. 04.16.15 at 6:05 am

There’s a lot I accept as time passes, the “oh, this doesn’t mean anything to them” moments, but really, Marley? Sad to say.

Yeah, I’d take the overplaying of Legend over kids just not knowing who Marley is at all! On a vaguely related note, I remember several years ago, when teaching Camus’ The Stranger, asking the kids something like, “You know ‘Killing An Arab’. the Cure song?” and pretty much the entire class looked at me like I was fucking E.T. (I think one of them knew what I was talking about.) That was mildly depressing.


ZM 04.16.15 at 8:24 am

I have not ever been that into Bob Marley, but that Small Axe song and High Tide Or Low Tide are really Nice!

“I am somewhat permanently inoculated because I listened to those songs when I was a kid.”

It is funny the music you grow up around sometimes. I used to love listening to my Mum’s old Patti Smith records in high school, but kind of like “you were into this Mum, are you sure?” And then even when grunge broke in my early teens it was kind of in this local context of a childhood friend’s uncle being in the Cosmic Psychos, and my parents knowing Tim Hemmensley from GOD and the Powder Monkeys from when he was a child. So it was kind of like an inherited rebelliousness. And I discovered Jean Ritchie because my Mum had an old folk revival dulcimer which I thought was some Indian instrument until I saw a Jean Ritchie second hand record.

We had Leonard Cohen records too (or maybe just one). When I was 17 I found a copy of Leonard Cohen’s book Beautiful Losers in the op-shop — which Nick Cave had given to a (now) local artist who must have gone to art school with him in the 1970s and it had handwritten poems about waves at the back. It was not a very good novel and I never knew what to do with it — but then I gave it to our art gallery library to have since they have her paintings.


bad Jim 04.16.15 at 8:49 am

It’s also Creedence, Hendrix, the Eagles, the Stones. At some point we’re going to have to face up to Sturgeon’s law, that nearly everything is crap. If something is becoming tiresome, it’s not unreasonable to suspect that it might not be that good.

We remember William Herschel as the first person in history to discover a new planet. He was also a pretty decent composer. I’ve heard one of his symphonies and it was rather pleasant, but compared to Haydn or Mozart it was … disposable.


Fiddlin Bill 04.16.15 at 10:55 am

War/We Don’t Need No Trouble. Also, “Rasta don’t work for no CIA.”


Ronan(rf) 04.16.15 at 11:14 am

“Drunken white dude singing redemption song” describes parts of my youth a little too accurately.


Ronan(rf) 04.16.15 at 11:19 am

My own behaviour, of course. We didn’t have frats, so this was more back in the stages of where we’d sneak cans of cider at the bottom of a field with a bonfire then go home to our parents to be called “disgraces”.
I guess that’s a fraternity of a type.


The Modesto Kid 04.16.15 at 3:01 pm

I remember several years ago, when teaching Camus’ The Stranger, asking the kids something like, “You know ‘Killing An Arab’. the Cure song?”

Sylvia (first year h.s.) got super-into The Stranger earlier this year, enough to want to read other books by Camus even. I told her about “Killing an Arab” and she was mildly interested but not enough to listen to it.


Bill Murray 04.16.15 at 7:43 pm

For the early Wailers, I also like the Studio One recordings, which are more ska than reggae but still quite good.

Do you feel the same way too?

and a cover of Tom Jones


js. 04.16.15 at 9:03 pm

“Drunken white dude singing redemption song” describes parts of my youth a little too accurately.

No shame in that, really. It’s a solid song.


Belle Waring 04.17.15 at 4:45 am

Ronan (rf): someone has to ask the serious questions, and I guess since I’ve expressed a desire to manage our comments better it falls to me. Why weren’t you stoned? I mean, it has long been a maxim in my family* that you should stop drinking seriously** once you start smoking seriously, as that leads to the puke-hole. Nonetheless, I think the onus was on you in each and every one of those situations to be hella stoned. What’s your excuse? #stonerjusticewarrior #notyoursensemilla

*but we mostly hardly drink anymore.
**continuing to nurse a beer is OK.


js. 04.17.15 at 5:25 am

I mean, it has long been a maxim in my family* that you should stop drinking seriously** once you start smoking seriously, as that leads to the puke-hole.

No, wait, what? Surely, the rule is, do not touch the weed if you’re already well drunk. Because, then, it’s: hi face, meet toilet. I don’t even get this starting to smoke seriously once you’ve already been drinking seriously.


Ronan(rf) 04.17.15 at 7:35 am

It’s a fair question belle , and a wise maxim your family lived by. Part of it is probably the callowness of youth. As gwb put it; ‘when I was young and foolish, I was young and foolish.’ An even bigger part is probably just what we might have access to. Back in those days (when we were maybe 15/16, so late 90s early 00s) there was perhaps only one off licence in town that would serve underagers (who kept his business profitable, afaict) and so for matters of cost, matters of taste , and matters of his limited stock we tended towards (devils bit) cider, which came in 3 litre plastic bottles and was genuinely, retrospectively, the most disgusting brew you’ve ever set eyes on.
You wouldn’t have been able to get good weed where I was from back then, or perhaps more accurately *we* wouldn’t have. So even when we could we had to settle for what was known as ‘sea hash’, which, as rumour had it, was from bales of hash the fishermen used to catch while out working, sneak in to the harbour and then store in their attics. (I’ve come to doubt parts of this story ) When you burnt this stuff it would leave off plumes of dark black smoke like burning rubber, and rarely more than one of you would tend to have it at any given time, so they would guard it jealously and roll large fat joints that would fill your mouth with tobacco and cigarette paper and a taste of burnt tyres and freshly tarmacadand roads.
Which isn’t to say that there weren’t moments , like sitting on the cliffs watching the boats come and go on a warm day, when sea hash was the better choice. It’s just that with limited resources and groups of semi egalitarian though self interested individuals you have to make choices that are perhaps sub optimal . It’s game theory , init ?


Belle Waring 04.17.15 at 1:23 pm

Ronan (rf) that is a legit excuse.
js. I come from sturdy stock, what can I say.


Fiddlin Bill 04.19.15 at 1:52 pm


A nice live version of Small Axe. Best Marley recorded IMHO is Babylon By Bus. I think the band got more excited in live contexts. As for frat boys and anything they do–hey, it doesn’t reflect on Bob Marley, it reflects on THEM.

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